Buying major kitchen appliances can be almost as overwhelming as buying a new car. There are so many choices, and an ever-evolving stream of new features and technology. Here are five tips that can help your decision-making when you’re ready to shop for new kitchen appliances, along with some of the latest features you may want to consider for three major kitchen appliances: dishwasher, oven, and refrigerator.
1. Ready, Set, Budget!
You can find quality, reliable kitchen appliance brands and models in almost every price range. Things such as finishes (stainless costs more), features, high-tech, and capacity will definitely drive prices up, however. Deciding your budget before you start shopping can help narrow down your options, and keep your spending on track.
When you consider your appliance budget, think about how long you’re going to be in your home. If you’re simply replacing an old dishwasher in a house you plan to sell in a few years, you might not want to spring for a high-end model. If it’s your dream-kitchen remodel, however, the extra expense may be worth it.
2. Avoid Buyer’s Regret – Don’t Impulse Buy
It’s easy to be tempted by a big sale, new features, or great design. Before you’re tempted to buy, however, think about what your household needs, who will be using the appliances, and how they’ll be used. Then, just as you would when shopping for a new car, it is wise to do a little research.
Not a fan of shopping? Find a friend or family member who likes to shop and ask for their help. This can help prevent the temptation to buy the first thing that looks good.
3. Find Reliable Appliance Brands
It really pays to do your homework and find which appliance brands (and types) are most reliable. You might think the most reliable appliance brands would be the higher-end ones, but you’d be surprised.
Most people expect their major appliances to last about ten years, which is pretty close to what manufacturers expect as well. That doesn’t mean your appliances won’t need repairs before that, however.
Your friends and family, and even your online social network are a great place to get advice about must-have – or stay-away-from – appliances types and brands. People love to give recommendations about things they like—and don’t like.
Searching the internet always provides a wealth of information, but there can be a lot of conflicting and confusing advice about the best appliance models. The best features and styles can be subjective, so you may not find exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s a good place to start.
Brand reliability is definitely worth researching on the internet. Consumer Reports is a great place to start for brand ratings. If you don’t want to spring for an account, check your local library. They’ll probably have the printed magazine or an online account you can use.
4. Know What You Need in Your Appliances
Think about what your family needs. If you love to cook or like to entertain, splurging on high-end or large-capacity appliances can make sense. On the other hand, if you have a small household, or rarely use your kitchen other than the freezer and microwave, standard size appliances are probably fine.
Do you love takeout pizza? Then make sure that side-by-side refrigerator will fit those large pizza boxes. Similarly, if you’re a fan of all things frozen (that is, desserts), a fridge with a bottom freezer may lead to back strain from bending over to reach items.
If you’re on a first-name basis with the experts at the Apple Genius Bar, you may want to stay away from smart appliances, and those with lots of complex options and controls. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with technology, smart appliances have a lot to offer (more about this below).
5. Choose Smart Appliance Features Wisely
Are smarter appliances a smart buy? Smarter doesn’t usually mean easier or simpler to use. It’s easy to be tempted by the latest high-tech gadgets and smart devices. Many “smart” features really can make your life easier— if you’re comfortable with technology. Buying the latest and greatest major appliances with high-tech computers isn’t always a good idea, however.
Adding computers and more electronic components to appliances mean there’s more to break down. Technology is constantly evolving, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to last. Think of your phone—you probably replace it every few years. While a new appliance should last longer than that, smart appliances may not last as long. And when items break, your local service professional may not be trained yet to fix the computer screen on your high-tech fridge or other cutting-edge appliance.
Popular Dishwasher Features
Pros and Cons of Hidden Controls
Yes, having the dishwasher controls hidden can give a sleek look. If you have small children around, hidden can also keep the irresistible lure of buttons away from tiny hands. On the other hand, hidden controls typically up the cost. You also have to open the door to operate the dishwasher and with some models you won’t be able to tell how long is left in the cycle.
How Much Quiet Do You Want?
Price doesn’t always equate to a better-cleaning dishwasher, but it almost always equates to a quieter dishwasher. Higher end dishwashers are typically quieter than lower-end models. If a quiet dishwasher is important for you, aim for a dishwasher that is between 45 and 50 decibels (the unit of measure used for sound ratings). That said, if you have a ten-year-old dishwasher, even an inexpensive new dishwasher is going to be much quieter than your current one.
If you cook a lot or like to entertain, features such as adjustable or flexible racks – or even third racks for silverware — are worth considering. You’ll pay more for these features, but the extra usability can be worth it. Drawer-style dishwashers (similar to double ovens), however, will definitely add to the cost, and these models haven’t yet proven their reliability.
Popular Oven/Cooktop Features
Unless you’re doing a kitchen remodel, you probably aren’t going to change the current style of oven you have: typically either a freestanding range or a built-in wall oven with a separate cooktop. In most cases, you’ll also want to stay with the same fuel type (gas or electric) unless your kitchen is already set up for both, or you’re willing to spend money to have it modified.
Controls and Settings
If you opt for an electronic control panel, you can look for features such as control and door locks, delay timers, and settings to keep your food warm. Smart controls can get you even more options.
Convection vs. Convention Ovens
Conventional and convection ovens look almost the same, but the addition of a fan in a convection oven changes the way it heats and cooks. In a regular or conventional oven, the heat will rise to the top. A convection oven’s fan circulates hot air, which helps heat and cook more evenly. Convection ovens cook faster, typically at a lower heat, so this means they also use less energy (an average of 20% less). Convection isn’t great for everything however: breads, cakes, and cupcakes are better baked in a conventional oven.
Double ovens are a big hit with those who love to cook and entertain, but who don’t have the space for two wall-ovens. If baking two items at different temperatures at the same time is your idea of a good time, the extra money for a double oven could be worth it for you.
The downside of double ovens? The lower oven opens practically right onto the floor in most models. Bending over to lift a big roast or turkey from the lower oven can be a challenge for some people. (Have bad knees or an iffy back? You probably won’t like it.) The low oven opening can also be an issue if you have small children or pets who like to get involved with what you are doing.
Popular Refrigerator Features
Ice and Water Dispenser: Popular, but Problematic
Think twice about in-door ice and water dispensers. Refrigerator water and ice dispensers are popular and definitely convenient, but they have significant downsides. First, refrigerators with these features not only cost more, they also have higher energy costs. Next, these dispensers also take up valuable door space. If you don’t need an ice dispenser, many refrigerators have water dispensers located inside, that take up very little space. Finally, according to Consumer Reports, refrigerators with water and ice dispensers tend to have much higher repair rates.
Door Alarms and Child Locks
It’s easy to be distracted in the kitchen and not shut the fridge all the way, only to return to find the door has been partway open for who-knows-how-long. Some fridges have alarm systems that set off when the doors have been open for a certain time. The Child Lock feature can also be a helpful if you have small children in the home.
Adjustable Shelves and Drawers
New refrigerators come with a variety of shelving and drawer options. Sliding and split shelves give you added flexibility to customize the space to maximize capacity and organization. Some refrigerators have adjustable storage bins on the doors as well. Others offer doors within doors so that you can easily access frequently used items such as beverages and condiments without opening whole fridge door.